Course Numbering System

Courses offered at Penn State are identified by departmental abbreviation and number. The course-numbering system helps advisers and students find appropriate courses. Numbers also differentiate courses that are appropriate for particular populations of students. Courses available to undergraduates are categorized by the following three levels.

Undergraduate Courses (1 to 399)

Courses below the 400-level are designed for undergraduate students. Within this level, other than common course numbers, there is not a university-wide standard for assigning a number to a course. Therefore, a higher number does not necessarily indicate a more advanced course (e.g., CMPSC 203 is not more advanced than CMPSC 121). To determine if a course is appropriate for a student, read its course description, which includes prerequisites (or contact the department offering the course for information).

400-Level Courses (400 to 499)

Advanced undergraduate courses, described in the Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin, are designed for juniors and seniors (students who have completed 60 credits or more) and graduate students. A student who has not yet completed 60 credits should consult with his/her adviser and obtain permission of the course instructor prior to scheduling a 400-level course.

500- and 800-Level Courses (500 to 599; 800 to 899)

Graduate courses are offered at Penn State Erie, Harrisburg, Hershey, and University Park. These courses are numbered 500 to 599 and 800 to 899 and are described in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin. They are not available to undergraduates unless the student is enrolled in an integrated undergraduate/graduate program.

However, there are exceptions. As specified in the chart below, a student who has the required semester classification and cumulative average or who is a Schreyer Scholar may be granted approval to enroll in a 500- or 800-level course.

Student Action (at all four campuses)

  1. Complete the Request for Undergraduate Student to Take 500- or 800-Level Courses form.
  2. Obtain the required signature(s) indicated in the chart below.
  3. Submit the form to Graduate Enrollment Services, 114 Kern Building (Fax: 814-863-4627) for approval.

If approved, Graduate Enrollment Services will notify the student and provide instructions for adding the course.

Semester/Schreyer Scholar Cumulative Average Signature(s) Required on Request Form
Senior 3.50 or higher Course instructor
Senior 3.00 - 3.49 Course instructor and adviser
Senior less than 3.00 Not eligible
Schreyer Scholar   Course instructor
Junior, Sophomore, or First-Year (who is not a Schreyer Scholar)   Not eligible

Common Course numbers for Undergraduates

Certain types of courses share a common course number or may have a suffix, a letter following the course number. Common course numbers have been established for the following types of course work: special topics, foreign studies, some first-year seminars, research project courses, internships, and independent studies. Course levels relate to the numbering system described above. Multiple offerings of the same number may be distinguished by the use of suffixes A, B, etc. Authorized advisers can access course descriptions for some of these courses on ISIS screen ARUCU (to view, type in the course information and then press enter; use "F8" to scroll through the screens). Questions about common course numbers should be directed to the University curriculum coordinator (814-863-0996) or the department offering the course.

Last Update: June 2016

Reference(s): Senate Policy 34-58